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19/12/2019

Khan stands firm on fracking policy in the London Plan

Words: Laura Edgar
London / iStock-585295052

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has rejected a recommendation by the Planning Inspectorate to remove a policy relating to fracking from the draft London Plan.

Policy SI11 states that development proposals for exploration, appraisal or production of shale gas by hydraulic fracturing “should be refused”.

In October, inspectors Roisin Barrett, William Fieldhouse and David Smith recommended that the policy should be deleted in its entirety, as the approach is “fundamentally inconsistent with the direction of national policy, which sets out the need to explore and develop shale gas and oil resources in a safe, sustainable and timely way”.

In a document that responds to each of the recommendations, Khan explains that he is “strongly opposed” to exploration and production of shale gas in London. He considers it “vital” to have a London-wide planning policy on this, and without the policy, the plan would be inconsistent with other mayoral strategy documents.

Green belt

The draft London Plan seeks to “protect and enhance” London’s open spaces, including the green belt, Metropolitan Open Land, designated nature conservation sites and local spaces. Therefore, it states that development proposals that would “harm” the green belt should be refused.

The inspectors, though, suggested that a review of the green belt should be undertaken to at least establish what potential there is for sustainable development.

Khan refused to comply with the recommendation. He considers the “strong emphasis” on the green belt to be justified in order to help prevent urban sprawl, drive the reuse and intensification of previously developed land to ensure that the city makes efficient use of its infrastructure, and that inner urban areas benefit from regeneration and investment.

“The strong protection of the green belt is also important due to the multiple important environmental functions it performs within the context of a climate and ecological emergency. It provides many benefits including ensuring transport emissions do not increase from sprawl, supporting London’s resilience to a changing climate (such as preventing flooding) as well as supporting food growing, providing important habitats for wildlife and allowing space for recreation and relaxation for Londoners.”

Khan also explained that any future review of the green belt must be “part of a comprehensive strategic appraisal of London’s spatial development options that focuses on the most sustainable outcomes”, which is a matter for a future iteration of the London Plan.

He did, however, add a section to the plan that states it does not meet all of London’s identified development needs. Work will need to be undertaken to explore the options for meeting this need sustainably in London and beyond – another matter he considers to be for a future plan.

Heathrow’s third runway

Although Policy T8 Aviation does say the mayor supports the case for additional aviation capacity in the south-east of England as long as it meets London’s passenger and freight needs, he will oppose the expansion of Heathrow Airport unless it can be shown that there would be no additional noise or air quality harm.

The inspectors recommended that the policy should be removed completely from the plan. Rejecting this recommendation, Khan said the absence of policy T8 would leave a “policy vacuum, in which there would be no effective basis for assessing aviation-related development in London”.

He notes that the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) is primarily site-specific in relation to expanding Heathrow and does not cover all aviation proposals that could impinge on London. “In the absence of T8, there would be no London-wide strategic planning policy for other airports in London, or other schemes coming forward at Heathrow.”

Khan did accept the recommendations of the inspectors on housing targets. He agreed to reduce the plan’s 10-year housing target from 649,350 homes to 522,870. He also agreed to reduce the target for delivery on small sites for 10 year from 245,730 to 119,250 homes.

The plan has been submitted to the housing secretary for consideration.


Commentary:

Lichfields’ planner Tom Davies told The Planner: “The reduction in the plan’s housing target bumps up London’s unmet housing need by a further 14,000 dwellings per annum, mostly as a result of the mayor’s concession that proposals for over 245,000 homes on small sites, within 10 years, was unrealistic.

“This has shifted the focus back to delivering sites in the green belt, but the mayor is insistent that he will defend his manifesto pledge to restrict release of London’s green belt. The housing ambitions of a plan that doesn’t face up to tough decisions on green belt are inevitably constrained by existing capacity rather than confronting need.

“In doing so he is ignoring the panel’s advice and as such, this commitment risks undermining the objectives and delivery of the plan.

“Furthermore, this latest version of the plan continues to diverge from national policy in a number of other key policy areas, so there must be a good chance we have not seen the final version yet.

“If unsatisfied, the secretary of state has powers to issue a holding direction which would stop the plan from being adopted, unless the mayor were to make the necessary amendments.”


The London Plan – Intend to Publish can be found on the Greater London Authority (GLA) website (pdf).

The Mayor of London’s response to the recommendations can be found here (pdf).

More information on the draft London Plan can be found here.


Read more:

Inspectors tell Khan to remove fracking policy from London Plan


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